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"Not very daring."
2 stars
Brett Gallman says... "There’s a cruel irony to the internet: while it’s arguably mankind’s greatest achievement—a tool that has theoretically unified much of the world—it’s been the quickest, most efficient platform for people to just be completely awful to each other. Whatever useful, neat, or even revolutionary thing that’s emerged from it, chances are it’s been corrupted or coopted in some way, especially when it comes to social media, where everyone has a voice. It’s just too bad that so many of those voices belong to total assholes. Anyway, that’s the (very vague) threat behind the premise of “Nerve,” a breezy bit of techno-paranoia that really only cares about how all of this applies to high school drama. It’s maybe a few steps away from being a PSA for cyberbullying when it could be so much more." (more)
"Still fighting censorship with machine guns, less concerned about princes."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The first live-action "Library Wars" film was a curious thing, a seemingly natural venue for sharp satire that instead focused on light romance to the exclusion of what would seem like more unique material. In some ways, its sequel over-compensates, mission-focused in nature as well as name, but it is overall a strong follow-up that expands on its premise in interesting ways while also making for an enjoyable visit with favorite characters." (more)
"Raiders of the Lost Stamp."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "When "For a Few Bullets" ends and the main titles come up, the first one displayed is "A Film by Peter Pan", and it's okay to chuckle. Pan Anzi could have maybe chosen a Western name that didn't have it's own built-in punchline, but it fits in this case. He's made the sort of big, swashbuckling action/adventure that someone who pledged to never grow up might make, full of frantic action and plot twists that could really use some dialing back." (more)
"Textbook propaganda worth seeing for timing and craft."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It is both a crying shame and entirely fitting that "Momotaro: Sacred Sailors" is Japan's first animated feature. Fitting because it immediately demonstrates the signature style and impressive quality that what later become known as "anime" often demonstrates, along with the willingness to reinvent traditional material for a new audience. It is also very much a World War II propaganda film, and as such rather uncomfortable enough to watch in North America seventy years later that it becomes little more than noteworthy." (more)
"Not so rebellious, but has good action."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: With any luck, "Baaghi" will eventually look like the movies Jackie Chan did when he was at the same point in his career as present-day Tiger Shroff: Not very good overall, made from fill-in-the-blanks scripts, filled with people who can't really act, and perhaps best forgotten if not for the fact that, from the very start, this guy could fight when the camera was on. You could cut one heck of an action-oriented trailer for this one, even if there is a fair amount of other filler." (more)
"A couple cute Polish mermaids gets me in the theater for something weird."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "The Lure" includes what is thus far one of my favorite moments of the festival, when a mermaid who is starting to follow the story of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" fairly closely rolls her eyes at her sister's worries about where that leads, saying it's "just a superstition". The movie's at its best when it's able to be as untethered from expectations as something described as a Polish period horror musical should be; it's less exciting when it opts to follow the template." (more)
"Fast, fun, and a little bit frightening."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The more horror movies I see, the more I appreciate the ones that do not mess around with unnecessary complications but which can still use their high concept to create nifty moments. That is "Lights Out" in a nutshell - it's got a reason to be scared of the dark, some clever uses of the concept, and a quick pace that doesn't leave room for contrived conflicts when there's enough genuine suspense." (more)
"The travails of dealing with a father who is demanding, even for a king."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There is a line in "The Throne" about how royal families are unique in that one must think of one's children as enemies far sooner than one would like. That's probably true in other circumstances as well, but it's far from the essential tragedy of this (South Korea's submission for consideration as "Best Foreign Language Film" at the last Academy Awards), where the Crown Prince's greatest weakness may be that he is incapable of being that sort of enemy." (more)
"Midnight In Manhattan"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Having been writing and directing an average of a film a year for nearly a half-century, Woody Allen has reached a point in his career where his more recent efforts tend to fall into one of two categories. There are the films where it is clear that he had an interesting and compelling idea that truly sparked his creative juices in some way and led to both critical and commercial success—in the last decade or so, this group would include the likes of “Match Point,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Blue Jasmine” (though I must admit to finding the last one somewhat overrated). Then there are the films that seem to have been compiled out of various ideas that he dealt with more successfully in other films and put before the cameras simply as a way of continuing his long-standing work cycle. This is not to say that these films do not have any merit to them—I have enjoyed such admittedly minor efforts as “Whatever Works,” “To Rome with Love” and “Irrational Man” to some degree—but if these films, not to mention such decidedly lesser entries as “Scoop,” “Cassandra’s Dream” and “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” were to suddenly be completely stricken from his filmography, few people would overly mourn the loss. His latest effort, the wistful period romantic comedy-drama “Cafe Society,” is a work that falls into the latter camp. It has its charms and contains a few nice performances but the whole thing has a whiff of the familiar to it that cannot be overlooked—even when it does work, those with a working knowledge of his oeuvre are likely to find themselves comparing it to the similar material covered in earlier films and find it somewhat wanting by comparison." (more)
"Well, Sort Of Fabulous"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I should probably preface this review of “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,” the long-gestating screen version of the beloved 90s British television comedy, by stating that I went into the screening with a basic knowledge and understanding of the series—i have seen, and for the most part liked, some of the episodes from its initial 1992-96 run when it played in the U.S. on Comedy Central and definitely remember the commercials that played incessantly during “Mystery Science Theater 3000”—but with nowhere near the level of devotion that its ardent fanbase on both sides of the pond have lavished on it over the years. However, when I went into that screening, I was most definitely in the mood for a laugh or two and while the resulting film may leave the uninitiated baffled, its cult will certainly love it despite its flaws and even the more casual fans will find themselves laughing at the sheer fizzy nonsense of it all." (more)

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